226 incident must be investigated

On the evening of 26 February a group of Taiwanese university students in Taipei went out to show their support for the Jasmine Revolution in China. While attempting to cross the road they were blocked from crossing by a group of plain-clothes people claiming to be police officers. The video embedded above shows the incident. The Taipei Times has also reported on the incident.

The students involved in the incident have established the “226 Students Self-Help Group” (226學生自救小組) and have created a blog, Facebook page and YouTube channel. I have translated the description of the event from the 226 students’ blog below. Continue reading

Youth must speak out to protect internet freedom

I had a letter published in the Taipei Times today in response to two recent incidents where freedom of speech on the internet was threatened. I wrote an article on my posterous blog which gives some more background on the issue. The post also includes links to the Hu’s girls videos. Tim Maddog has written a post at Taiwan Matters! on freedom of speech issue. Michael Turton also has more on the issue and notes that the Data Protection Act which will come into effect next year may create further problems for internet users. My letter from the Taipei Times is below.

The Ministry of Education’s attempt to interfere with political discussion on the PTT Internet forum (“Notice to Ministry sparks outrage,” Nov. 4, page 1) marks yet another attack on free speech by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government.

This comes just after an Internet user faced threats of legal action for producing a spoof version of the “Hu’s girls” promotional video for the campaign of Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強), the KMT candidate for the Greater Taichung mayoral election (“Prosecutors say no suit against altered Hu video,” Nov. 3, page 3). Continue reading

Court questions constitutionality of Assembly Law

The Taipei District Court has suspended a case involving Lee Ming-tsung (李明聰), an NTU assistant professor and one of the initiators of the Wild Strawberry Movement (野草莓學運), who was charged under the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法). The judge said a constitutional interpretation of the law was necessary before a verdict could be made in the case. Taiwan Today reports:

The Taipei District Court has ordered the trial of a National Taiwan University academic charged with violating the Assembly and Parade Act halted pending constitutional interpretation of several articles contained within the law.

The court found that proceedings against Lee Ming-tsung, an assistant professor of sociology at NTU, could not continue as the act infringes on a citizen’s freedom of assembly, as enshrined in the ROC Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Continue reading

Taiwan screens film and defends freedom

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The Ten Conditions of Love, documentary about exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer, screened at Da’an Park in Taipei tonight. It was part of an event  organised by Luo Wen-jia’s Movement magazine (二次黨外雜志) and the Taiwan Friends of Tibet (台灣圖博之友會) that saw the documentary screened simultaneously in five Taiwanese cities. The screening follows a controversy which earlier saw the documentary withdrawn from the Kaohsiung Film Festival. It was later reinstated in the film festival and also screened in Kaohsiung last week.

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Former Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) attended the screening and is seen in the above photo with Luo Wen-jia (羅文嘉). The outdoor theatre area had a packed crowd. And although some prominent members of the DPP were present the event was not like an election campaign rally. It was an occasion for everyone, regardless of which political party they might support, to come together and show that they valued the freedom to be able to watch this film.  Continue reading

Film screenings and freedom of speech

CHINA-AUSTRALIA/FILM

The Kaohsiung Film Festival is in the midst of a controversy over the screening of The Ten Conditions of Love, a documentary about the life of exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer. The Film Festival announced its plans to screen the documentary earlier this month. Since then there has been increasing pressure on the film festival to withdraw the film to avoid a potential loss of Chinese tourists in Kaohsiung.

The Ten Conditions of Love created a controversy when it screened at the Melbourne Film Festival in August. The screening went ahead in the face of loud protests and interference from China. Other Chinese films were withdrawn from the festival. These included the Taiwanese film Miao Miao based on a decision by the film’s Hong Kong distributor. Chinese hackers also targeted the Melbourne Film Festival’s website. I understand the Kaohsiung Film Festival’s site has also been subject to attacks.

Over the weekend the Kaohsiung City Government announced that it would withdraw the documentary from the festival in October and screen it this week to avoid further controversy. While some might be happy that people in Taiwan will still have the chance to see the documentary, others were indignant that Kaohsiung City Government had interfered with the film festival’s independence. Continue reading

Assembly Law attacks freedom of speech

The Taiwan Association for Human Rights (台灣人權促進會; TAHR) and Forum Asia have released a joint statement calling on Taiwan to respect and protect freedom of assembly by dropping charges against two prominent human rights defenders and amend the Parade and Assembly Law (集會遊行法) in accordance to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The two human rights defenders are Lin Chia-fan (林佳範), President of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), and Lee Ming-tsung (李明聰), Vice-Chairperson of Amnesty International (AI) Taiwan and assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at NTU. Lee and Lin were charged under Article 29 of the Parade and Assembly Law for their involvement in two separate protests in November 2008. Lee was involved in a sit-in outside the Executive Yuan on 6-7 November that marked the beginning of the Wild Strawberry Movement (野草莓學運). Lin led a demonstration at the Legislative Yuan on 19 November calling for amendments to the Parade and Assembly Law. Continue reading

Freedom of assembly is a basic right

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 20:

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

ROC Constitution (de facto constitution of Taiwan) Article 14 :

The people shall have freedom of assembly and of association.

International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights Article 21:

The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

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On 31 March the Legislative Yuan ratified two international covenants on rights including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The purpose of this document is to more clearly explain how the rights expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be protected under the law. Continue reading

Human rights under attack in Taiwan

Some two weeks have passed since I wrote the post asking if Taiwan is becoming a police state? It was written during the middle of ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin’s visit to Taiwan and it focused on the actions of police during that week. I now want to look more broadly at some of the major human rights issues that have occurred in Taiwan in the past few months. Continue reading